University of Louisville
The semicolon is an excellent tool for connecting related ideas in your sentences. Semicolons place a pause within a sentence that is stronger than the comma, but weaker than the period. Also, semicolons can be used to separate items in a list in certain situations.
There are three ways to use the semicolon:
1 Join two related independent clauses in a sentence.
Writing papers may take a mental toll; use frequent naps to help the mind
The initial popularity of the Beatles did not fade; “Love Me Do” was the
first of twenty-seven number one hits for the group.
2 Join two independent clauses using words such as “however”
My fingers were cramping from overuse; nonetheless, I continued to type.
Thousand of fans flocked to stadiums in order to see the Beatles; however,
no one could hear the band over the crowd’s roar.
3 Indicate a break within a series that already uses commas.
The colors of the teams are Louisville, red; Kentucky, blue;
The Beatles were John Lennon, guitarist; Paul McCartney, bassist; George
Harrison, guitarist; and Ringo Starr, drummer.
Do NOT use a semicolon when
- Joining two clauses which are not both independent
Incorrect: Drew locked his keys in the car; because he is forgetful.
Incorrect: Riding a bicycle down the street; Doris waved to her friends.
- Introducing a list
Incorrect: Television can do many things; introduce new ideas,
present compelling stories, and fry your retinas.
(The correct punctuation mark here is a colon [ : ].)
- You think emoticons will improve your writing style.
Non-academic: OMG my professor is so cute. ;)